Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Personalities and Parties and the stewardship of kingdoms in conflict

The culture today does not like binaries, but like it or not this election is a binary situation: Biden vs Trump, the Dems vs the Repubs, Progressives vs Conservatives. You can’t get away from it, and you can’t honestly deny it.

Yes, you can refuse to vote—which I think is a failure on your part to exercise your stewardship. Or you can vote for a third party or write-in candidate, which can be a legitimate, Christ-honoring decision. At least you are voting your conscience.

At the end of the day, however, the result is an inescapable binary: Biden will win, or Trump will win. No matter who you vote for, or even if you refuse to vote, your stewardship of your earthly citizenship is going to be a factor contributing to whomever wins or loses. You are playing a part in the outcome: it’s unavoidable.

There are personalities on the ticket: Biden/Harris, Trump/Pence. A significant portion of the voting public will use their vote to express their like/dislike, respect/disdain for the personalities on the ticket. Character counts.

We pause from our regularly scheduled post for a personal confession: in 2016 I voted third party because I could not bring myself to vote for a character as offensive as Donald Trump. I wrote posts against Donald Trump, because I believed (and still believe) that character counts. My vote four years ago was a considered exercise of the stewardship of my Christian responsibility to engage with this fallen world. This year, however, I will pull the lever for Trump. My reasons will become clear as you read. It has far more to do with worldview than with Trump, Republicans, politics or power. More on that in a minute.

Character does count. The character of our leaders provides a (hopefully) good model for our kids. It creates (or destroys) the president’s credibility with not only world leaders, but our own legislators. It signals to the society at large what sort of behavior is going to be considered acceptable. Character is vital.

But in a presidential election, character is not the only factor; sometimes it isn’t even the most urgent factor. When we are electing a president, we are also electing a party along with its platform and its historic trajectory.

A party’s platform is comprised of its stated intentions in a variety of different areas, typically including things like fiscal priorities, domestic priorities, foreign policy, defense, entitlements and so forth. Usually some portion of the platform is successfully implemented during a president’s term while other portions wind up getting blocked, depending on who controls the Congress.

Everyone knows about platforms, but what about trajectories? Trajectories have to do with where a party has taken the country in the past; in other words, what the party has actually accomplished. The trajectory of a political party is the best, most reliable indicator of where it is going in the future. Trajectory reveals the direction and speed of momentum, regardless of the personalities on the ticket. Presidents come and go, but the momentum of the party tends to continue along the same basic lines it has established in the past.

You can look back fifty years and observe the trajectories established by the two major parties. The Republican party has stood for a conservative, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, conservative moral values, the sanctity of life, support of the family, parental sovereignty, educational choice, freedom of religion, limited government. The sins of the Repubs are many, and I have written about these. Crony capitalism, fiscal irresponsibility, graft, corporate welfare, plenty of examples of high-profile hypocritical moral failure—its all there in the Republican party. But with all its failures, the overall trajectory of the Republican party has been to stay the course and stick to the Constitution.

Over the past fifty years the trajectory of the Democratic party has been very different. While there have been good things produced by the party, the historic path has been a full-bodied support of the sexual revolution, a non-negotiable fanatical support for virtually unrestricted abortion, a growing love of socialism and redistribution, a growing hatred of America and its history, a diminishing of parental sovereignty and the importance of families, limitations on educational choice, encouraging dependence on government, and viewing the Constitution as a “living document” that can be interpreted in whatever way the culture demands.

This momentum in the Democratic party, especially with regard to the LGBTQ+ movement in the last 15 years, has been breathtaking. It is accelerating rapidly, to the point that our country in four years probably will not bear a great deal of resemblance to the America of 2000.

Perhaps you prefer the path on which the Democrats are taking the country. Perhaps you prefer the Republican’s path. Whatever your preference, the trajectories are undeniable—and the party you put in power with your vote will continue its trajectory regardless of the particular personality at the helm.

I published a novel in August, 2016, entitled The Candidate. It was about a fictional character, Henry Marshall, who found himself an independent candidate in a presidential election. Many who read that novel contacted me to say they wished they could vote for Henry Marshall. So do I. But we can’t. Marshall is not on the ticket. The binary possibility is Biden or Trump.

Given the quandary this election presents, I believe that a straightforward vote based on the candidate is not necessarily the wisest decision—in fact, it might be rather short-sighted. Far, far more important in this election is the fact that we are choosing between two well-established, undeniable trajectories. One is aggressively hostile against Christianity, against families, against moral sanity. One is not. When you are presented with the difficult choices this election represents, I am suggesting that what Christians should vote for is trajectory, not personalities.

Many people are not voting FOR as much as they are voting AGAINST. In other words, some Christians are not voting FOR abortion when they pull the lever for Biden (though some are), they are voting AGAINST Trump. Other Christians are not voting FOR Trump (though some are) when they pull his lever, they are voting AGAINST the established Democratic trajectory that threatens the moral sanity and well-being of the country. In fairness to one another, when we disagree we must not accuse each other of moral compromise, because most Christians caught in this Gordian knot will be honestly voting their conscience. But we are going to have to live with the extended consequences of our vote.

My goal is to persuade your conscience that this year, in this difficult election, the weightiest, wisest consideration is not the character of the two men involved (important though that consideration is), but the trajectories their respective parties have established. Given the established record of the past, where will the winning party take the country in the future? Do you really want to live there? Do you want your children to live there?

When you vote for a trajectory, you are voting for a worldview. In my next post I’ll give evidence of the deeply hostile, aggressive posture of the progressive movement (to which the Democratic party is beholden) toward biblical Christianity.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Biden, Trump, and the stewardship of kingdoms in conflict

 We are living in a day in which Bible-believing Christians seem to have difficulty connecting the bright lines of Scripture to the dots of life. One of the spheres in which this is readily apparent is that of politics.

Having said that, let me quickly affirm that God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Some of you might be shocked to learn He’s not a Libertarian, either. He is not a liberal or conservative. He doesn’t belong to the now-defunct Moral Majority, nor is He hiding out in the chapel of Liberty University. God does not fit under human rubrics or categories. Quite the opposite, in fact. Humans fit under His rubric as either Christ followers or rejectors.

It’s possible that Christians have lost the ability to interact profitably with the political world because we have an amazing citizenship that trumps all others: our citizenship is in heaven and we are participants in the reign and rule of Christ. Sometimes pastors and theologians can speak and teach as if that’s the only citizenship that matters. We’re told not to be concerned about elections because “no matter who wins, God is still on the throne.”

Well, of course He is. But that sort of statement can be little more than Christian fatalism, and can potentially be very irresponsible. God is wholly sovereign over all things, yes, but the Bible also teaches that our actions are consequential (Galatians 6:7, James 5:16). We make a difference by what we do. (Contact me in about two thousand years, and maybe I can shed some light on the paradoxical mystery between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.)

The point is that we also have earthly citizenships, and while they must never take priority over our heavenly one, neither can they be neglected. Our opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow earthly citizens is a stewardship that cannot be shrugged off as though God does not care. Our concerns about good government and the ordering of human society, about justice and equity, about opposing oppression and racism, about families and family stability, and about sexual morality are political concerns, to be sure, but more importantly they are biblical concerns. The stewardship of our vote, and how we interact with other citizens and our elected leaders should be matters of biblical concern to Christians. The Bible actually speaks to these things.

Even the most cursory perusal of the Scripture will show that God wants us to be involved. Joseph served pagan Pharaoh and virtually saved the kingdom of Egypt. Daniel served the wicked Babylonian kings with distinction, and while serving them even rebuked them for their bad behavior (Daniel 4:27). The exiles in Chaldea were told to seek the good of the city where they lived.“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’” (Jeremiah 29:4–7, NASB95)

In the New Testament, Paul tells us human government is appointed by God (Romans 13:1-7). In 1 Timothy he admonishes us to pray for governors and kings and all in authority, implying that good government (1 Timothy 2:2) is useful to the advancement of the gospel of Christ (vv 3-4).

So here is the point: as believers we should be involved in elections, in politics, in the commercial world and marketplace, and in our communities, supporting good legislation and governance, good policing and a just legal system, and the safety, value, equality, and dignity of all of our citizens.

And here is precisely where so many Christians stop connecting the dots. Our citizenship is dual: heavenly and earthly. We have responsibilities and a stewardship to both. But one and only one citizenship is preeminent. Our citizenship in the kingdom of Christ sets boundaries around what we can endorse in earthly kingdoms. We cannot support in our communities or our politics what is forbidden by our Savior.

But what do we do when it seems we are presented with two bad choices? I’ll look more at this in the next post, but let’s put down a ground rule first, regarding the differences between Trump and Biden. To establish this guideline, I’m looking only at the negatives for the moment.

Trump is an immoral man of poor character and poor communication skills. Remember, we are only looking at the negatives. Each candidate also has some positives.

Biden is a reliable supporter of abortion and the progressive left and sometimes has trouble telling the truth. See disclaimer above.

Here is the trap: in disputing with one another, if you can accuse a Christian Trump voter of hypocrisy and compromising his values because he is voting for a scoundrel, then it must also be fair and accurate to accuse a Christian Biden voter of precisely the same thing: voting for abortion and the progressive sexual revolution. That sword of accusation cuts both ways.

But neither accusation is necessarily true, and slinging these sorts of charges is not helpful. The situation is considerably more complex than such reductionism implies. Am I arguing that it is a moral equivalency? No, definitely not. I believe one choice is far better than the other, and for very solid reasons. There is more involved here than the personalities of the two candidates. But if we're going to discuss this rather than fight about it, let's drop the slanders so we can talk with mutual respect.

In the next post we'll look at why I don't believe the two candidates pose a moral equivalency, with respect to our vote.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Why you—and your teens—should read The Candidate

 First, it’s an exciting tale about a Christian conservative who suddenly finds himself an unlikely independent candidate in the presidential election. Filled with action, intrigue, and characters you will love, the novel provides a fascinating (fictional) behind-the-scenes look at the machinations of national campaigns and the agenda-driven reporting of mainstream media.

More importantly, the tale is a teaching tool about the Founders’ intention standing behind the text of the Constitution. In addition to reading books and articles on presidential campaigns and contemporary constitutional issues, while researching the story I also read the Constitution (of course!) and the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers, a series of articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in 1788, was an effort to explain the thinking behind the Constitution and to encourage the states to ratify it. Each chapter of The Candidate is headlined with a relevant quote from the Federalist Papers, or other significant historical documents.

Readers will gain a fundamental working knowledge of our three branches of government and the checks and balances written into the Constitution. The Candidate will also provide responses to several of the slanders the modern progressive movement throws against the United States and its history.

The pacing of the book might cause you to miss your bedtime, and by the end of the story you’ll be wishing Henry Marshall was an actual choice on the ballot. I certainly wish he was! The tale is written from a biblical worldview, contains no obscenities or sex scenes, but does have a few scenes of violence. Available in print or ebook format from Amazon or from your favorite bookstore through the Ingram catalog. Signed print copies are available from me.

Comments from Amazon readers:

  • I recommend The Candidate, with one warning. It's hard to put down.” -Laura V

  • I skipped class today so that I could finish the book. I've read all Cobb's books and this one is near the top…” -T Setliff

  • I started reading books by C. H. Cobb a few years back. His works are really what got me back into reading. The Falcon series being the first and then on to the Outlander Chronicles, with his unique writing style and outstanding attention to detail of the locales and characters in his novels. The Candidate is no exception. . . . While it is a novel, it's obvious that the author has once again done his research into what our founding fathers intended as they formed our nation, wrote the Constitution, and established the three branches of government, specifically as it relates to the federal government. A definite must read.” -C Denlinger

  • Just finished this last night and was sad to see it end as it was such an interesting read. While it is a novel, it was also very educational about our Founding Fathers and the Constitution. A very believable plot and set of characters. So real, in fact, I wish we could have Henry Marshall as an actual candidate.” -A Nilsen

  • Excellent and thought provoking read that I could not put down!” -J Mattheis